Antonio Callaway has started the first three games of his Florida career and shown exactly why. The freshman has four catches for 60 yards this season, adding two rushes for 17 yards. Callaway has also handled punt return responsibilities over the last two games, returning four punts for 62 yards.
His breakout game came against Kentucky on Saturday. Callaway made a one-handed catch over the middle of the field, gaining 34 yards while making the grab in stride. He also had a 37-yard punt return while making multiple Kentucky defenders miss, and the Florida coaches also involved him on an end around that picked up nine yards in the run game.
“I’m sure glad he’s a Gator,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “We knew that when we recruited him. He’s a guy that, it’s really important to. You can see his study. When you’re in practice, he doesn’t take a play off. He’s going to make a mistake here and there in practice, but he wants to correct it. It’s important to him. And this team’s important to him. I kinda like No. 81.”
When McElwain took the job at Florida, he detailed a list he carries with him on game day. It’s called his ‘get-it-to’ list, which serves as a constant reminder of a few players that need a certain number of touches in each game. Those are seen as the best playmakers on the team, and Callaway has proven through the first three games this year that his name needs to be higher up that list.
“You’re going to see more and more ‘get-it-tos’ for him as he still kind of learns and does things,” McElwain said.
A lot of the players knew about Callaway when he came in as a freshman. The Booker T. Washington High School product was especially well known through the south Florida natives on the team. In seven games last year as a senior, Callaway had 31 catches for 818 yards and seven touchdowns before a knee injury ended his high school career.
Still, the new Florida staff made him a priority and was able to get Callaway to sign and join a lot of familiar faces in Gainesville.
“I’m really impressed with him as a freshman coming in,” Florida receiver Brandon Powell said. “He’s one of those South Florida guys. He’s just done a really good job. He’s a great receiver. We’ve just got to find a lot more ways to get the ball in the playmaker’s hands and he can make more plays. It was the highlight on Saturday when he had that one-handed catch, so that just shows some of the things he can do when you get the ball in his hands.”
Florida cornerback Quincy Wilson played against Callaway, who isn’t allowed to talk to the media since he’s a freshman, during their time in high school. Callaway’s ability stood out to Wilson back then, and he has transitioned it to college football.
“I know what he’s got and last week was just a taste of what we’re going to get this season from him,” Wilson said.